Nigeria: Online Trade Mark Infringement - a criminal offence
Trade mark owners have a new defense mechanism available to them in the fight against online infringement and counterfeiting in Nigeria. The Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention ETC) Act, 2015 deals with a whole range of cyber issues such as computer fraud and cyber- terrorism, as well as trade mark matters.
Section 25, which is entitled ‘Cybersquatting’, makes it an offence to use ‘on the internet or any other computer network’ any ‘name, business name, trademark, domain name or other word or phrase’ that is ‘registered, owned or in use by’ another party, in cases where that use was unauthorised, intentional and ‘for the purpose of interfering with’ the lawful use. A conviction can lead to imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of up to Naira 5 000 000 (approximately US$25 000), or both. Interestingly, the court can also order the offender to ‘relinquish’ the trade mark or name to the ‘rightful owner’.
What this means is that owners of registered and other trade marks or names can now lodge criminal complaints against online infringers, and possibly even have registrations transferred to them. The benefit of criminal proceedings, of course, is that the trade mark owner does not incur legal costs. We will, however, need to wait and see whether the Nigerian authorities are willing and able to prosecute offences of this nature.
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